Why Did My Food Intolerance Make Me Gain Weight?


For years I suffered with many of the symptoms one has with the digestive disorder fructose malabsorption. The worst and sometimes debilitating ones are the bloating, muscle spasms, nausea, joint pain from the inflammation, brain fog, and fatigue. The heartburn and my nails constantly breaking are no fun either. I also happen to be in the group of people who gained weight, which is frustrating because with the extra pounds and the bloating, getting dressed in the morning was and at times still is mission impossible. I have become an expert at finding the loose and flowing dresses that camouflage my big Buddha belly. Although, it is more likely for those with a food intolerance to lose weight, there are some people like me who gain weight. So why do we gain weight when we have a food intolerance? Most of the information I found on this topic was about celiac disease, but there is a correlation to other food intolerances as well, such as fructose malabsorption.

Insulin Resistance:
An increase in blood sugar results in insulin production. However, if too much insulin is chronically produced, cells can become insulin resistant. This can lead to weight gain due to cells storing fat, increased cravings for carbohydrates, and fatigue so people do not have as much energy to exercise. Eating large amounts of gluten, foods with high-fructose corn syrup, and fructose can lead to insulin resistance. Dairy is also thought to have a role.

Leptin: Has a role in managing metabolism and signaling the body that it is full. It is thought that gluten can lead to leptin resistance, which is when cells do not receive the signal that they are full even when leptin levels are high. Leptin resistance results in weight gain because without feeling satiated we continue to eat.

Thyroid: Has a role in metabolism. The thyroid gland utilizes iodine to produce and release the hormones needed to regulate metabolism. However, iodine deficiency is common for people with celiac disease and without sufficient iodine the thyroid gland instead makes a chemical (5-monodeiodinase) that stockpiles fat.

Gluten and prolonged exposure to other problem foods such as fructose can lead to inflammation. Inflammation is one of the major causes of weight gain in the United States. It shuts down leptin production so the body does not receive the message that it is full. Additionally, inflammation prevents fat loss, increases fluid retention, and causes fatigue.

The wheat produced today is different than it was 50-70 years ago. It contains more of the starch amylopectin A, which has been shown to have a role in insulin resistance; and it has more gluten, which can lead to inflammation. Additionally, we have increased our consumption of processed foods over the years. Processed foods tend to have wheat and not much nutritional value, which can lead to a reduced metabolism and an increase of weight gain.

We want what we cannot have and that includes craving foods that we cannot tolerate and digest. When we eat these foods, endorphins are released giving us a positive feeling. This is why we keep eating our trigger foods even if it causes unpleasant or uncomfortable symptoms, including possibly weight gain. If we avoid these foods, we end up craving them more, which can lead to binge eating and weight gain. Additionally, people who suffer from fructose malabsorption have low levels of serotonin, which causes them to crave sugar, which reduces serotonin, which causes them to crave sugar. You get the picture.

Increased Appetite:
Typically, weight loss is the result of malnutrition, however, for some people this can lead to an increased appetite and subsequent weight gain. For those with celiac disease, the villi found on the lining of the small intestine are damaged and this can reduce fatty acid absorption. This may limit the body’s ability to break down fats and increase ones appetite because fatty acids have a role in letting the body know it’s full.

Nutrient Deficiencies:
In addition to an increased appetite, there is another way that malnutrition can lead to weight gain. Deficiencies in vitamin D and calcium are thought to lead to weight gain as the body stockpiles fat to keep in reserve. Iron, calcium and Vitamin D are the most common deficiencies for celiac disease and iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin D are found with fructose malabsorption.

Leaky Gut:
Leaky gut occurs when toxic substances pass through your gut walls and lead to an immune response. This can be caused by gluten, fructose, and small intestinal bowel overgrowth to name a few. A leaky gut can result in fatigue, bloating, and has been linked to weight gain.

Low Energy:
Fatigue is a common symptom for food intolerances. The body can become tired and its energy depleted when it is managing the strain on the immune system triggered by gluten or inflammation resulting from other food intolerances. When this happens, one is less likely to be active and exercise.

There are many reasons why one can gain weight with a food intolerance. However, the good news is that once diagnosed and the diet is modified, the body can heal, minimize or eliminate the symptoms, and begin to lose weight.

Have you gained weight due to a food intolerance? How have you managed it?

1. http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/2010/08/dietary-strategies-for-fructose.html
2. http://www.ion.ac.uk/information/onarchives/foodintolerance
3. http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/22/how-hidden-food-sensitivities-make-you-fat/
4. http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/986653/food-intolerances-might-cause-weight-gain
5. http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/13/three-hidden-ways-wheat-makes-you-fat/
6. http://www.livestrong.com/article/475544-wheat-allergies-weight-gain/
7. http://glutenintoleranceschool.com/gluten-intolerance-and-weight-gain/
8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jj-virgin/gluten_b_1834836.html
9. http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/allergies/food-allergy/wheat-gluten/weight-gain-associated-with-gluten-allergy.htm
10. http://www.foodallergyandglutenfreeweightloss.com/why_are_we_overweight.html
11. http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/archives/faq/what-common-nutrient-deficiencies-might-an-adult-experience-prior-to-diagnosis
12. http://findwholeness.hubpages.com/hub/Fructose-Malabsorption-Nutrient-Deficiencies-to-Watch-Out-For
13. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/12/is-a-leaky-gut-causing-you-to-pack-on-the-pounds.aspx
14. http://www.livestrong.com/article/426380-weight-gain-gluten-intolerance-and-constant-hunger/

Photo taken by vascorossy on Pixabay




  1. Kate Scarlata has a helpful shopping list that I used a lot before I learned what I can eat. My favorite app has been the Monash University Low FODMAP diet app and there is also the FODMAP swAPP app that came out recently that provides alternatives to the low FODMAP foods. I have heard of the FODMAP Friendly app and it seems like a great app. I am including a link to the resource page on my website which has links to shopping lists and apps https://contentedbelly.com/resources/. Good luck with your journey. Please let me know if you learn some helpful tips or other resources as you go through this process.


  2. What a fascinating insight into your journey with Fructose Malabsoprtion. Have you found many helpful resources to help with shopping and making better food choices?
    I recently found the FODMAP Friendly app, which lists foods, products and dietary specialists. I have found it really handy and informative.


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